January’s App of the Month: GeoDASH

January 2, 2018 Jasmine Sohal

Throughout the year, we will feature 12 interesting and diverse customer-developed apps in our blog and on our website home page. January’s App of the Month is Vancouver Police Department’s GeoDASH. Explore how geographic information systems (GIS) can enhance citizens’ awareness of policing activities in their community, as well as keep them engaged in reducing crime.

Happy New Year, everyone! 2018 is here, which means we have a whole new set of apps to feature as Apps of the Month. This year’s selection of apps effectively illustrate how ArcGIS users across Canada are leveraging the power of GIS to improve our environment, economy and society. To kickoff this year, I will start with Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) app, the Geographic Data Analysis and Statistics Hub (GeoDASH).

Public safety is one of the most important tasks for any municipal government – every citizen wants to feel safe in their community. One way to help increase public safety is through mapping. Mapping where crimes are occurring in a city can help not only visualize where there may be crime hot spots, but it also provides clues to where there may be patterns of crime and help crime analysts determine why certain areas are targeted versus others. Consequently, this will help police understand local crime to further develop crime prevention strategies and target crime hot spots to reduce crime incidents. 

GeoDASH is a popular web app, receiving up to 700 visits each day.

GeoDASH is a crime mapping tool that provides the public access to information about crimes reported to the VPD. By providing valuable information about crime activity in neighbourhoods, residents can be more informed and engaged in reducing crime. The app is also intended to enhance community awareness of policing activity in Vancouver, with the objective of providing greater transparency on the activities of police resources. The tool is designed to provide individuals with a general overview of incidents falling into several crime categories.

“There were two key needs that the VPD hoped to address with the introduction of the tool,” explains Ryan Prox, special constable, Crime Analytics Advisory & Development Unit.  “First was to provide the public with timely information on potential crime issues developing within their community, thereby facilitating awareness and allowing the public to take measures to reduce the opportunity for crime to occur.” 

“The second was a means to illustrate key crime issues that the police are engaged with and what issues are driving police activities and their response within the community. This contributes to greater transparency and accountability to the community they are serving and helps identify issues as they develop,” he continued.  

Here’s an interesting fact. The VPD is the first police department in Canada to use machine learning to create predictive policing technology using GeoDASH. With this innovation in crime forecasting, they saw a decrease in residential break and enters each month. Watch this video to learn more.

GeoDASH was developed using Latitude Geographics’ Geocortex Essentials solution. Essentials is a framework for designing, developing and maintaining web apps and works exclusively with the ArcGIS platform. This product supports ArcGIS Server Services, public and private content from ArcGIS Online, web maps created using Portal for ArcGIS and the ArcGIS Online World Geocoding Service.

The VPD’s experience with GeoCortex was very positive,” comments Ryan. “Part of that are excellent customer service and the ease in which the software integrates within an existing ArcGIS platform.” 

How GeoDASH works

As sophisticated as the app is, it’s actually very easy to use. All the incidents are symbolized with clear, legible symbols so you can easily identify the various types of crimes in the city. You’re able to do three different types of queries, depending on what you’re looking for:

  • Neighbourhood Search: find and display crimes within specific neighbourhoods
  • Address Search: find and display crimes near a given street address, and
  • Location Search: click a location on the map to find and display nearby crimes.

You also can do your own analysis, create charts for further analysis and print your own map. In case anyone using the map gets stuck, the VPD also created a very thorough User Guide that you can access for further clarification on the app’s functionality.  

GeoDASH allows citizens to become GIS analysts by building their own queries based on a specified location type and reported crime, and then analyzing the crime trends and patterns around the city.

Not only does GeoDASH benefit citizens, it has also proved to be very helpful with the VPD’s internal staff. “Prior to developing the app, countless hours were spent creating static PDF maps of crime issues daily. This information was then emailed to interested parties and uploaded to the VPD website every day,” explains Ryan. “The maps lacked detail and were not interactive, rendering only a small sample of the actual crimes occurring. The automated process of providing this information in far greater detail and in a more timely manner has saved significant support hours and made the information more accessible to the public.”

I encourage you to check out GeoDASH for yourself, and let me know in the comments below what you liked best about the app. And in case you’re wondering what other apps will be featured this year, read the announcement: Which maps and apps made it to the 2018 Esri Canada Calendar & Apps of the Month?

About the Author

Jasmine Sohal

Jasmine Sohal is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada, holding an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from McMaster University and a post-graduate GIS Applications Specialist certificate from Sir Sandford Fleming College. As a kid, Jasmine refrained from going to new places until she drew a map of how she would get from Point A to Point B. After taking her first Introduction to GIS course at McMaster University, Jasmine knew right away where her passion lay. Now, as a self-proclaimed Geogeek, she is always inspired to visualize situations spatially and applies GIS anywhere she can. In her spare time, Jasmine is a discoverer; for good hiking trails and restaurants, that is. She is always going out to discover beautiful landscapes during her hiking adventures around the province. Off the trails, you can find her discovering new restaurants to dine at. With her open mind and willingness to adapt and learn, Jasmine is excited to see what her future in GIS holds for her.

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